Tarraco, the great Roman city in Costa Daurada


A circus that once held epic quadriga races, the famous chariots pulled by four horses; an amphitheatre where gladiators would fight to the death under a blazing sun; a theatre that would dramatise and mock life in the empire; forums, both provincial and local, which were the administrative heart and the commercial soul of the city... What would it be like to actually live in the ancient Tarraco? Want to join us on an exciting journey back in time?


Tarraco, the current Tarragona, capital of Costa Daurada, was the very first city founded by the Romans outside the Italian Peninsula. Did you know that? And, as such, it was privileged enough to be one of the very few cities in the Roman empire to be equipped with the facilities you would normally find in the greatest Roman capitals: circus, amphitheatre, theatre, forums, a cult area... a great city surrounded also by great infrastructures, such as the Pont del Diable bridge, which would channel water towards the city; the Mèdol quarry, which would supply stones in order to build the Roman city, or the Arc de Berà, a monument built to honour Emperor Augustus and which would indicate the city’s territorial limitations.  


Tarragona and Tarraco have always coexisted but, in order to protect and safeguard the existing patrimonial heritage, UNESCO declared it World Heritage in the year 2000. Today, when you walk round Tarragona is like strolling along Tarraco’s pathways. Did you know that Plaça de la Font, for example ─where you’ll find the Town Hall─ is located right in the middle of where the old Tarraco’s Roman Circus used to be? The current plaza would have hosted what’s known as the “spina”, a middle-sized wall that would separate the two ways of the race and guide chariots round the elliptic circuit in search of victory and honour. By the way, Tarraco did have 2 local idols: Eutyches and Fuscvs, 2 of the greatest “auriga”, or drivers, of the empire, which we would associate to today’s best F1 and MotoGP pilots. Both sides of the Circus ─which would accommodate up to 20.000 spectators!), there are still incredible parts of the stands, which you can admire today. And in the underground, if you visit the History Museum, you can also discover the labyrinthine insides of the Circus. 

One of the most iconic images of the city, present in thousands of postcards, is the amphitheatre. Strategically located by the Mediterranean Sea, the Mare Nostrum, its sand would have witnessed the great shows it hosted, from naval to gladiator fights, or the sacrifice of martyrs, such as the bishop Fructuosus and his deacons Eulogius and Augurius, burnt alive on the 21st of January, 259 AD. By the way, Tarragona hosts every year, during the months of May and June, a history divulgation festival known as Tarraco Viva, where these and other typical Roman scenes are re-enacted on a unique atmosphere and an exemplary historical rigour. This also brings back, thanks to the Tarraco a Taula festival, the classic dishes and stews of that period. Make sure you check it out!  


The area located at the highest point of the city, what’s known today as Part Alta, was the place where we would have found cult buildings. Did you know that just underneath the impressive and unfinished Tarragona Cathedral is where the Augustus Temple used to be? And that the famous Roman emperor spent 2 years in the city in order to recover from a number of illnesses, during which he declared Tarraco as the capital city? Find out more about these and other secrets ─like the fact that Augustus was born on the 23rd of September (Santa Tecla’s Day) and died on the 19th of August (Sant Magí’s Day), the 2 main local festivities─ thanks to a guided tour round the Cathedral area.  

Finally, visit the Tarragona History Museum, in Plaça del Rei, and go up the Pretori Tower, one of the city’s watchtowers that provides some incredible views. In the Museum, you can book visits to the different places of the Roman Tarraco, capital city of the empire... and Costa Daurada. Ave!




Photos © Manel Antolí (RV Edipress)


Trip and Kids Costa Daurada

Experience Catalunya








What are you after?